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The New Parent’s Guide to Staying Sane and in Love

Managing our relationship’s dynamic after the birth of our first child was one of the biggest challenges my partner and I faced as new parents. Here are five pieces of advice that helped us navigate this tricky phase:

  1. Communicate Openly and Honestly: We tried to talk openly and honestly about how we felt and what we needed. This one sounds like a cliche, but it is one of those practices that is easier said than done. I would rather stay passive-aggressive than show myself vulnerable, but I knew that to maintain the union that brought us Benji, we had to change how we communicate. What worked for us was using “I” statements instead of blaming language, and we made sure to listen to each other’s perspectives. We heard to listen, not to respond.
  2. Treat taking care of your relationship like you treat going to the gym: You know that feeling when you just can’t pull yourself off the couch to go to the gym, but when you do it, you are so glad you did? Treat working on your relationship the same way, it’s easy to fall into unproductive patterns, but it was 100% worth putting the effort in for us. In our case, it was going to therapy because we knew we needed some facilitation and translation of what was going on in our minds. Another thing was making space for what the other person wanted to do. In the early weeks of Benji’s life, for me, it was to do 15 minutes of yoga a day to support my recovery, and for my partner, it was to run once a week. Now that Benji is almost 1 year old, we can allow ourselves more. My partner makes space for me to have a longer time on my own to do whatever I want, and I do the same for him. We consider this practice “taking care of our relationship” because we know that everything seems more manageable when we feel good about ourselves.
  3. Divide Responsibilities Fairly: This one was life-changing. I am the person in our relationship who does everything quicker, resulting in me doing all chores and building up resentment toward my partner for not helping out. It had to change because I felt like I was about to leave my body, so I wrote a detailed list of tasks that I perform daily, weekly and monthly/occasionally, emphasising the ones that I felt went unnoticed. Then we split those responsibilities between us, based on preference, hung the chart on the fridge, and we last had to talk about it a while ago.
  4. Have an acknowledgements party- To avoid making it seem like all we talk about is problems, we sat down each night and said what we acknowledged about the other person that specific day. We also made a rule that we can say what we wish we were acknowledged for. It became a fun routine that let us finish the day on a positive note.
  5. Seek Outside Support: When they say, “It takes a village”- It really does. This one was a big one for us because we moved countries when Benji was 4 months old, so we suddenly found ourselves in a situation where we didn’t know anyone or even know how the healthcare system worked. We had to be very intentional about seeking support. For us, it was looking for a nanny, a nursery, some “baby-friendly” friends and cleaning support. And you can’t underestimate how long it will take to find people you trust. Other parents in our circles found themselves better in parenting groups or finding a postpartum doula. So go for it, see what works for you and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
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